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Child poverty rising sharply

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Child poverty rising sharply in the North and Midlands
By Graham Whitham

New research published this week by End Child Poverty finds that child poverty has risen most sharply in parts of the Midlands and Northern towns and cities in the past four years.

The research looks specifically at child poverty rates after housing costs are taken into account. Measuring poverty in this way often highlights the impact high housing costs have on household income, with many of the areas with the highest after housing cost poverty rates not surprisingly being in London. However, over the five years leading up to 2018/19, rents in other parts of the country have risen by the same amount as in the capital. This is acting to drive up poverty rates in places across the North. Increasingly this means that families are finding that, once their housing costs are paid, they do not have enough money to meet their children’s needs and are left no option but to turn to crisis help, like food banks, and are increasingly reliant on free school meals.

Manchester and Oldham are among the areas that have seen the highest increases in child poverty rates after housing costs in the country. The table below shows the child poverty rates in each of Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs in 2014/15 and 2018/19, and the increase between those years. Child poverty increased in all but one Greater Manchester borough during that period. The areas in our city region with the lowest child poverty rates in 2014/15 either saw relatively small increases in the five years up to 2018/19 (Stockport seeing an increase of 0.2% and Wigan an increase of 1.7%), or a decrease (Trafford seeing a fall of 0.9%). In contrast, Manchester had the highest child poverty rate in Greater Manchester in both 2014/15 and 2018/19 and saw the second highest increase over this period (7%).

Local authority Child poverty (measured after housing costs) rate in 2014/15 Child poverty rate in 2018/19 Percentage point change (2015-19)
Bolton 32.7% 39.0% 6.3%
Bury 30.9% 33.8% 2.9%
Manchester 33.6% 40.6% 7.0%
Oldham 31.8% 39.9% 8.1%
Rochdale 32.4% 37.7% 5.3%
Salford 32.5% 34.8% 2.3%
Stockport 25.7% 25.9% 0.2%
Tameside 31.4% 34.8% 3.4%
Trafford 24.0% 23.1% -0.9%
Wigan 29.1% 30.8% 1.7%

 

These difference are largely explained by variations in wage growth and housing costs. They also illustrate concerns that government policies that are acting to drive up poverty (e.g. cuts and reforms to benefits) are driving up poverty in already disadvantaged areas.

In response to the research, End Child Poverty is calling for a government strategy for tackling child poverty. GMPA is supporting this call, and the following asks:

•  Uprating of housing assistance in line with inflation;

•  Retain the £20 uplift in Universal Credit introduced at the start of the pandemic, which the Government has indicated will end in April 2021;

•  End the benefit cap and the two-child limit on benefits;

GMPA Director Graham Whitham for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, GMPA Director

•  Invest in all children with an increase to child benefit;

•  Extend Free School Meals to all families in receipt of Universal Credit and those with No Recourse to Public Funds.

You can read the full report and download the data from the End Child Poverty website.

GMPA is a steering group member of End Child Poverty.

 

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Devolved approaches to social security

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Devolved approaches to social security in the UK – lessons for Greater Manchester
By Graham Whitham

We are pleased to be launching, in partnership with the Sustainable Housing and Urban Studies Unit (SHUSU – University of Salford), a series of short essays exploring approaches to social security at a devolved level in the UK. The aim is to understand what lessons there are for Greater Manchester (GM) from approaches taken in the devolved nations, and to consider what COVID-19 means for the future of local welfare provision.

Dr Mark Simpson (Reflections on Northern Ireland’s mirror image approach to devolved social security) highlights the different payment arrangements for Universal Credit (UC) in Northern Ireland (the only part of the UK where welfare policy is wholly devolved). In contrast to England, UC payments in Northern Ireland are made twice monthly by default and the housing element is paid automatically to landlords.

Despite the different levels of social security powers that exists in Northern Ireland and Scotland, both nations have sought to mitigate against some of the worst aspects of UK policy. Professor Sharon Wright (Social security in Scotland) explains that in 2018/19 the Scottish Government spent approximately £125 million mitigating UK cuts. According to Professor Wright, Scotland’s approach shows the value of listening to those with lived experience of social security and enabling local people to feed into the design of policies and practices.

An approach that responds to the needs of service users was at the heart of the DWP and Oxfam Livelihoods Training Project in Wales. Professor Lisa Scullion (to whom we are grateful for bringing this series of essays together) and Dr Katy Jones (Taking an assets-based approach to Jobcentre Plus support: Lessons from Wales) discuss how the project took a person-centred approach to tackling poverty, embedding understandings of poverty within DWP across Wales. Findings from this project could inform the development of labour market programmes in GM.

Dr Daniel Edmiston, Dr David Robertshaw and Dr Andrea Gibbons explore the impact of COVID-19 on local responses to welfare provision (What can local responses to COVID-19 tell us about the potential and challenges for devolved ‘welfare’?). Whilst recognising the incredible local cross-sector working that has happened during the pandemic, they warn of the risks presented by local welfare support operating in a context of diminishing resources. In this context, increased autonomy that a devolved approach to welfare may bring would need to be accompanied by mechanisms of accountability for local citizens to articulate their needs and preferences about local provision.

There are two aspects to approaching social security policy in GM. The first is to consider what can be done with existing powers. The second is to consider whether GM should seek devolution of aspects of the system and, if it were to do so, what powers it should seek and how it should use those powers. GMPA is currently undertaking research on the first of these considerations, exploring local welfare schemes, with a view to developing policy and a good practice guide for local authorities and their partners. This will be published later in the year.

On the second consideration, these essays encourage further discussion about how devolution of social security system could help strengthen the fight against poverty in GM.

What comes through strongly in the essays is the need to for a person-centred approach to welfare policy that ensures people with experience of using the social security are involved in service design. Also important to recognise is that regardless of the levels of power over the system that exist, what can be done locally, as Dr Mark Simpson says, to support people accessing the welfare system depends on the interaction of available powers, available budget and political will.
                               

To read the essays click here

 

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Focusing on the causes of poverty

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End Child Poverty Campaign, Marcus Rashford and focusing on the causes of poverty
By Graham Whitham

The End Child Poverty Campaign (ECP), of which GMPA is a steering group member, has written to Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford to congratulate him on drawing attention to the problem of food poverty among families with children. Marcus is backing calls in the National Food Strategy for expansion of free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent legacy benefit, expanding the school holiday food and activities programme and increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers.

It’s brilliant that Marcus has been able to generate such positive coverage for the issue of child food poverty and we fully support his call for an extension of free school meals to all children whose families are in receipt of Universal Credit. However, it is important that we don’t see food provision as a solution to poverty, whether that be poverty effecting children or other groups of the population.

It is imperative that the Government puts tackling child poverty at the heart of its post-pandemic economic recovery if we are to see an end to families having to rely on food handouts and vouchers to feed their children.

That is why GMPA supports ECP’s call for Government to set out a comprehensive and ambitious child poverty strategy that looks not just at ensuring children have enough to eat, but tackling the causes of low income and the reason families can’t afford adequate food in the first place. This would include strengthening the social security system by increasing child benefit by £10 a week; and ending the benefit cap, the two-child limit and the five week wait for Universal Credit. As well as taking action to ensure that companies pay a real living wage; addressing high rents and the cost of childcare; and reinvesting in children’s services.

Sian (GMPA’s recently appointed Food Poverty Programme Coordinator) set out GMPA’s response to the National Food Strategy in our last newsletter. Whilst a national conversation about food poverty is welcome (and necessary), the strategy recommendations do not focus enough on fixing these underlying causes of poverty.

GMPA Director Graham Whitham for GM Poverty ActionIn Greater Manchester it is important that we use what resources and powers we do have to support people in a way that prevents and reduces poverty, and that gives people maximum dignity, choice and control in the way support is provided. This should involve identifying opportunities to boost household income by increasing benefit take-up and widespread adoption of the Real Living Wage, as well as providing people with access to money rather than in-kind support such as food parcels and vouchers (see our ‘Cash First’ briefing for further discussion about the benefits of this approach).

Graham Whitham
GMPA Director

 

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Keep the lifeline

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Joseph Rowntree Foundation campaign: Keep the lifeline
By Graham Whitham

Update

Today (September 30th), despite the cancellation of the Autumn Budget, a letter has been sent to the Chancellor, signed by JRF and over 50 other organisations including GMPA. In the letter the signatories urge the Chancellor to “make the temporary £20/week increase to the standard allowance of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit permanent from April, as well as extend the same uplift to ESA, Income Support and JSA.”

It goes on to say “Falling incomes and rising costs throughout the pandemic have put families under immense financial pressure, but the £20 uplift has been a lifeline that has enabled many of them to keep their heads above water and has stopped us seeing a marked surge in poverty levels. However, if the uplift ends in April 2021, this good work risks being undermined.”

For more details on JRF’s ‘Keeping the lifeline’ campaign please take a look at this blog  from JRF’s Acting Director Helen Barnard. More information about the campaign is available on JRF’s website here.

Please get in touch with us if you would like to support this campaign.


GMPA is supporting the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s (JRF) call to maintain the £20 uplift for Universal Credit (UC) and legacy benefits introduced during the lockdown. The current indications from Government are that they still consider this to be a temporary measure, and as yet are not persuaded of the need to keep it in the autumn Budget. However, we know that many low incomes families were struggling financially prior to the pandemic and that many will be struggling following the lockdown period as the economic consequences of COVID-19 become clearer. Those needs are not likely to go away anytime soon and the £20 uplift needs to become permanent.

 

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GM Living Wage Campaign update

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As Greater Manchester (GM) emerges from the lockdown, we will need to work to make sure the coming recession doesn’t mean a race to the bottom for workers in GM.  We need to work together to ensure that we deliver the ‘Better’ in the #BuildBackBetter strategy and build back in a way that protects and improves the conditions and pay of our lowest paid workers. We need to support the key workers who have supported us all through this crisis and campaign to make sure that at the very least, they are paid the Real Living Wage. We need to ensure that we do not retreat in terms of numbers of already accredited Living Wage Employers and that we seek to protect the most vulnerable workers in those sectors that have traditionally paid people low wages.

What does this mean for the campaign for decent work for all workers in GM in general, and the campaign for a Real Living Wage in particular? These themes were discussed at a webinar on July 8th organised by the GM Living Wage Campaign on the topic of decent work, the Real Living Wage and the post lockdown GM economy.  Follow this link to see discussion and hear from our panel made up of Jenny Martin from Unison NW, Amy Rothwell from Boo Consulting and Graham Whitham from GMPA.  We were also joined in the discussion by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.

Following on from the webinar, we are continuing the discussion and debate and in the coming weeks we will be publishing a series of podcasts of our conversations with people involved in these key issues. The first of this series of three is a discussion I had with Andy Burnham, where we covered a range of topics that will be interest to those supporting the living wage campaign in GM but also to a much wider audience.

Best Wishes and Stay Safe.

GM Living Wage Campaign Coordinator
John Hacking

Twitter : @GMlivingwage  Facebook: www.facebook.com/gmlivingwage

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The National Food Strategy

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The National Food Strategy: What does it do for food poverty?
By Sian Mullen

Part one of the National Food Strategy, an independent review supported by a team of experts across the food system, was published last month. It aims to make, “urgent recommendations to support the country through the turbulence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to prepare for the end of the EU exit transition period”.

Initially, the strategy does a good job of steering the conversation towards the relationship between food and economics. It highlights some of the factors that cause food poverty: sudden unemployment, the housing benefit cap, and delay in receiving universal credit. Equally, it recognises that the lack of a “financial buffer”, experienced by those in low paid jobs, means they are less likely to be able to cope with the shock of a loss of income. Thus, it correctly determines that food poverty is not caused by a lack of food, it is caused by a lack of funds to buy it.

However, the strategy recommendations do not focus on fixing these underlying causes of poverty. Aside from a brief note to continue to measure food poverty (an important factor in ensuring the right work is done in the right place), the focus is directed towards free meals and voucher support. It predominantly focuses on children, presumably based on the slightly misleading assertion that, “new food bank users are overwhelmingly children and young people”. A closer look at the statistics relating to this claim reveal that while 21% of users during COVID-19 were families with dependent children and 5% did not have dependent children, the other 74% of respondents ‘preferred not to answer’. It is questionable to draw any conclusions around the age of users from such statistics. Equally, 22% of new food bank users (over the age of 16), were aged between 16-24; a significant, but not overwhelming proportion of the population.

This is not to detract from the importance of ensuring that children have access to nutritious food. However, this singular emphasis on children runs the risk of a strategic focus that concentrates on food handouts and vouchers as opposed to changes in welfare and employment policies to ensure adults have access to a decent and reliable income in order to feed themselves and their children.

One of the key recommendations is an increase in the value of Healthy Start vouchers. Whilst valuing initiatives aimed at ensuring children are nutritionally healthy, there are flaws to this approach. Firstly, if people do not have enough money to provide for their children, then they should receive more money. Cash assistance avoids issues surrounding accessing vouchers, issues around accessing shops where you can spend vouchers, and provides the recipient with dignity and equality when buying products (for an interesting perspective on the relegation of those on benefits to a world outside of money see: Williams (2013)). Critics argue that vouchers are necessary to ensure funds are spent as intended, however evidence suggests that cash schemes are successful in meeting project aims (Bailey (2013); DFID (2017)) and the level of control provided by vouchers is unreasonable and promotes
dependence on handouts,

“One of the principles of universal credit is to encourage personal responsibility.
It’s inconsistent … to say a benefit claimant should be trusted to pay their rent,
but we shouldn’t trust them to buy food…”
(CPAG)

Secondly, the uptake of Healthy Start vouchers is low with the current rate at only 48%. If vouchers are going to be the temporary answer, then there needs to be a focus on maximising take-up through proper promotion of the support that’s available, reducing complexity and stigma and measures to ensure vouchers can be accessed easily.’

Sian Mullen Food Poverty Programme Coordinator for GM Poverty ActionUltimately, if we are going to end food poverty then we need to address the problems that lead to food poverty. What we really need in Greater Manchester is a strategy that focuses on ensuring everyone has access to a decent and reliable income (Caraher & Furey (2017); Garnham (2020); Macleod (2019); Tait (2015)). Yes, we need some short-term fixes to the symptoms, but without a strategy that has a clear long-term goal of a decent and reliable income for all, the problem of food poverty will remain.

Sian Mullen
GMPA Food Poverty Programme Coordinator

 

 

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Food poverty programme

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GMPA’s Food Poverty Programme Update, and Introducing Sian Mullen
By Tom Skinner

Addressing the underlying causes of food poverty has been a major focus of GMPA’s work over the last three years. Many of you have contributed to it, including through the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance project which co-produced the GM Food Poverty Action Plan, published last year.

Since then, we have pushed for many of the actions in the plan to happen. This includes:

  • The GM Combined Authority collating information about poverty levels, access to food, Healthy Start voucher uptake and more, and sharing this with Local Authorities.
  • A greater recognition of the Combined and Local Authorities’ roles in reducing poverty as a means of tackling food poverty, and elected members and officers being tasked with this.
  • Increasingly joined up thinking about food provision during the school holidays. (Although we eventually want to reach a state where the need for charitable food aid is significantly reduced.)
  • More recently we have been very involved in helping to support and shape GM’s response to Covid-19, particularly addressing the extra impact that the pandemic has had on people in poverty.

To build on this work we recently recruited to a new post – Food Poverty Programme Coordinator – that will focus on implementing the action plan and support measures that address the underlying causes of food poverty.  This work will include piloting place-based partnership approaches to reducing food poverty in different localities across Greater Manchester. We were delighted to have appointed Sian Mullen to the role.


Sian Mullen

Sian Mullen Food Poverty Programme Coordinator for GM Poverty ActionSian has worked in the development and humanitarian sectors both in the UK and abroad for many years. She is passionate about working to alleviate poverty to create a more equal society, and is excited to be focusing on reducing food poverty in Greater Manchester.

Sian has lived in Manchester since 2012 when she came to complete her PhD in Humanitarianism.

Prior to joining GMPA she worked as a programme manager with Oxfam, coordinating their poverty alleviation programme across Greater Manchester. She has also been an active volunteer with several charities involved in food provision including during the Covid-19 response.


Tom for GMFPA article for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner, GMPA Co-Director

At GMPA we are excited about working with Sian and many of our partners over the coming years as we work towards our vision of a Greater Manchester free from poverty. Linked to this is the need for national action on food poverty. Part one of the National Food Strategy, an independent  review supported by a team of experts across the food  system, was published last month. You can read GMPA’s comments in response to the strategy in a separate article on the news page.

 

 

 

Tom Skinner
Director, GMPA

 

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Impact of poverty on BAME communities

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The disproportionate impact of poverty on BAME communities
By Graham Whitham

Many of you will have seen the recent Social Metrics Commission report highlighting the shocking extent to which certain parts of our community are at much greater risk of poverty. The report found that nearly half of BAME UK households live in poverty and many in deep poverty, and BAME families are between two to three times more likely to be experiencing persistent poverty.

The pandemic has highlighted many of the inequalities we were already aware of. The virus has sought out and disproportionately affected some of the most vulnerable in our society. Those who said at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak that the virus was a ‘great leveller’ and that the consequences would be felt by rich and poor alike were talking nonsense.

We invited a number of leading figures from the VCSE sector in Greater Manchester, who have been at the forefront of tackling poverty and inequalities across the city region to provide their comments on the Social Metrics Commission figures and what they mean for the fight against poverty in light of the pandemic.


Miranda Kaunang FareShareGM for GM Poverty Action

Miranda Kaunang,
Head of Development, FareShare GM

“We were in no doubt that thousands of families were struggling to get by before the lockdown, and that hundreds of organisations want to help them. The lockdown, and the Greater Manchester humanitarian response, confirmed that even more. The FareShare GM team has worked very hard to respond to the need for food aid for years.

To see these statistics, and have confirmed once again the scale of the problem, particularly among certain BAME communities, compared to the scale of our response, is daunting. Without further action from government to address the root causes of poverty, the work of FareShare GM will continue to be needed.

One challenge we face is being able to bring more certainty to our attempts to reach those in most need. To do that we need better data and a more tailored reach, and we need to think about how the intelligence we gather can inform policy and practice in a way that reduces the need for food aid. Like many other practical responders, we will keep on providing important support but the systemic landscape has to change. This really matters.”


Elizabeth Dotun for GM Poverty Action

Elizabeth Dotun  
Project Director ,
Rehoboth for families

“The majority of BAME people in the UK are migrants. Many lack the knowledge of how things work in their new environment and need support to help them settle. Many have suffered poverty because they do not understand the system and the operation of the country, they lack awareness of rights and entitlement. Many, for lack of knowledge of housing rights, have endured living in accommodation which are not suitable for living, examples being damp ceilings, condensation and overcrowding.

In situations where BAME people educate themselves on their environment and the system, they quickly realise that the system is rigged, and a lot of things are out of their control. Some service providers at different levels who are biased or prejudiced or are point blank racist have not always given the right advice or support when a member of the BAME community have asked for help.

Those who migrate to Britain without a degree find it hard to get employment of their choice and are often put in the ‘unskilled labour’ bracket. This makes it hard for members of the BAME community to progress.”


Atiha Chaudry for GM Poverty Action

Atiha Chaudry
Chair
GM BAME Network

“These figures show huge disparities for BAME communities and these are figures before COVID -19’s  big hit on BAME communities. It is shocking and frightening to think what the figures in coming years will say about the huge disparities and persistent inequalities in our western, modern and rich society.

The Social Metrics Commission report should be a must-read for all of us concerned with levels of poverty in our country. It headlines some disturbing and worrying figures for 2018-19 levels of poverty showing some shocking facts.

Greater Manchester is home to a significant BAME population with many districts like Manchester approaching fifty percent ethnic diversity. We should be very concerned locally about what this means for us now and as we begin to understand the aftermath and ongoing impact of COVID on our BAME communities. We need some serious action now!”


Charles Kawku-Odoi for GM Poverty Action

Charles Kwaku-Odoi,
Chief Officer,
Caribbean & African
Health Network

“It is shaming that there is growing inequality for BAME households in a rich country like the United Kingdom. There are structural issues including unfair immigration policies that drive BAME households further into poverty depriving hard working people of a level playing field.

Tackling the structural issues driving BAME households into deeper poverty requires a listening exercise for Government to understand the issues with a commitment to right the wrongs. The Government’s commitment to levelling up must be reflected in proportionate investment for communities that have been marginalised for decades and an internal soul searching within institutions like the Home Office that charges BAME households exorbitant fees when they want to remain legally in the UK. Please don’t give with one hand and collect with two hands!

Employers including the NHS also have a crucial responsibility to deal with the race pay gap where there are hardworking BAME people who continued to be under paid and not valued equally like their White counterparts.”


Beatrice Smith for GM Poverty Action

Beatrice Smith,
Facilitator,
Tameside PTC, GMPA

“These findings highlight once again the disparity of outcomes for BAME communities in comparison with the rest of the UK population. The tragedy of Grenfell 3 years ago, coupled with the adverse effect of COVID-19 on BAME people, provide alarming evidence of the failure of systems and institutions for non-white UK residents.

As it stands, BAME communities’ health remains adversely affected by COVID-19; the majority of frontline workers during the pandemic have been those from BAME backgrounds. These findings, therefore, paint a grim picture of the lived experience of BAME people in the UK and deeper work is needed to establish the causes behind these harrowing findings. As Bryan Stevenson, Author of Just Mercy and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative said: “the opposite of poverty is not wealth, it is justice”. Justice work is therefore needed to address the often systemic injustice that exists behind these statistics and to establish long-term and sustainable solutions with and for BAME communities.”

 

 

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Child Poverty

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Getting child poverty back on the national agenda
By Graham Whitham  Director, GMPA

End Child Poverty logo
Last Thursday GMPA joined other End Child Poverty Coalition (ECP) members on a Zoom call with Angela Raynor MP (Deputy Leader of the Labour Party), Jonathan Reynolds MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) and Kate Green MP (Shadow Minister for Child Poverty, and now also Shadow Secretary of State for Education) to discuss the opposition’s policy approach to tackling child poverty. In light of that conversation and the government’s recent U-turn on Free School Meal (FSM) vouchers during the summer holidays, it feels like child poverty is back on the national agenda for the first time in years.

  • FSM meal provision during the school holidays is just one of the many things that needs to happen to drive down child poverty across the country. There have been several calls on government in recent months to do more on poverty, as well as research reports highlighting the scale of the challenge facing the UK. For example, Save the Children and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have issued a joint call for a £20 weekly increase in the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit to help stave off millions of families falling into financial hardship over the coming months. This would support up to 4 million families and 8 million children at a time when, according to research published by Save the Children, 70% of families have had to cut back on food and other essentials, while half have fallen behind on rent or other household bills, sparking fears of more hardship ahead if unemployment rises further.
  • Child Poverty Action Group’s The cost of learning in lockdown report details results of a survey of 3600 parents and carers and 1300 children and young people. The survey found that Covid-19 magnified some of the factors that contribute to negative outcomes associated with children growing up in poverty. The low-income parents and carers responding to the survey were just as likely to be concerned with helping their children to continue learning through lockdown. However, they reported facing significantly more stress and worry around home learning and household finances than parents and carers in better off homes.
  • Data released by Citizens Advice shows the nature of the issues for which people are seeking support. Citizens Advice is warning that its data shows people are becoming increasingly concerned about redundancy, as the nation moves into a new phase where government support packages are scaled back. For 66 days straight, the charity’s page on being furloughed was the most viewed on its website. On June 5th, the numbers of visitors to the charity’s main redundancy webpage took the number one spot from being furloughed.
Graham Whitham, Director GMPA for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, Director GMPA

You’ll note that all three shadow ministers that ECP met with are MPs for Greater Manchester constituencies, and it is a helpful link for GMPA as we seek to ensure poverty is central to the local recovery from the pandemic. In our last newsletter we discussed what a local framework for tackling poverty could look like. We followed this up with a webinar last week – Poverty and the recovery – which many of you attended. Please keep an eye on our newsletter and website as we develop this work further.

 

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Poverty Truth Commissions

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By Tom Skinner, Director, GMPA

Poverty Truth Commissions (PTC) are built on a principle of collective and participatory decision-making to tackle poverty, in which people with lived experience of poverty build relationships with those in positions of influence. Working together, they co-create meaningful and longer-term solutions and change.

GMPA has supported many of the six Poverty Truth Commissions in Greater Manchester that have either been completed, are taking place, or are being set up. In particular we are taking the lead on the Poverty Truth Commission in Tameside, which is in its early stages and not yet publicly launched. We are pleased to introduce Beatrice Smith who has joined the GMPA team to start recruiting commissioners, seek funding, and help launch the Commission next year.


Beatrice Smith

Poverty Truth Commission Facilitator article for GM Poverty Action

Beatrice Smith

Beatrice was born in Rwanda and grew up there until the genocide of 1994 forced her and her family to flee to the UK. She spent her teenage years in London and moved to Manchester in 2002 to study at University. On graduating, she spent nearly a decade working as a policy coordinator for the DWP until 2015.

Since then, Beatrice has worked to help build a network of grassroots projects and charities within Manchester and Tameside, where she lives.

Beatrice is passionate about social justice and in April 2020, she came on board as a Facilitator for the Tameside Poverty Truth Commission.

Outside of her role with the PTC, she is a speaker and author of The Search for Home, which chronicles hers and her family’s journey from Rwanda to the UK as refugees.


West Cheshire has just completed its second Poverty Truth Commission (WCPTC2) and published its evaluation, showing the material impact that PTCs can have, including:

  • Individual changes: 100% of Community Commissioners reported more/much more respect, motivation, inspiration, hope, friendship, and understanding of others, and 100% of Civic & Business Leaders reported more/much more understanding of others.
  • Organisational changes: A 75% reduction in evictions in a housing association, improved access to food in schools, improved ‘pick lists’ at food banks, and increased socio-economic inclusion awareness across 7 organisations.
  • Policy and future changes: Through influencing the Housing Allocation Policy and Homelessness Strategy, The Place Plan 2019-2024, the Mental Health Partnership Board, and many more.

Using a Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology, it is estimated that for each £1 spent on WCPTC2, there was a return of £9.17 (which almost doubles to £18.51 once the changes made to a single social housing provider are rolled out further).

 

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